August 30, 2018 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
New Delhi: Human Rights activists, lawyers, intellectuals and authors today condemned arrests of human rights activists including Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Varavara Rao, who were arrested by the Maharashtra Police on 28th August 2018.
Activists Harish Dhawan (PUDR), Kalyani Menon-Sen (WSS), N. D. Pancholi (PUCL) and Sanjay Parikh (PUCL)were joined by renowned intellectual and author Arundhati Roy, Aruna Roy (Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan – MKSS), Bezwada Wilson (Safai Karamchari Andolan) and human rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan during a joint press conference held at Press Club (Raisina Road) in New Delhi on Thursday (Aug. 30) evening.
They demanded immediate and unconditional withdrawal of FIR No.4/2018 at Vishrambagh PS, Pune, Maharashtra and all held under it besides immediate repeal of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
A join statement issued by People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), People’s Union for Democratic Rights and Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) reads as follows:
The following are some of the significant aspects of the arrests:
Joint Statement Against Continuing Arrests of Rights Activists
30th August 2018, Press Club of India, New Delhi
We, the undersigned, strongly oppose and condemn the illegal raids carried out in different cities, and arrests of Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Varavara Rao by the Maharashtra Police on 28th August 2018. These are only the most recent arrests in a continuing wave of repression spearheaded by the police at the behest of their political leaders and their communal and casteist agendas against people’s movements and human rights defenders. The targeting of these democratic rights activists and organizations is an attack on the poor and marginalized sections of our society on whose behalf these activists have been raising their voices.
The current five arrests have been carried out under FIR. No.4/2018 at Vishrambagh PS, Pune in connection with Bhima Koregaon clashes. Under the same FIR a similar wave of arrests was carried out on 6th June against activists, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale. Those arrested on 28th August were not named in the original FIR. Nor did any of the names, barring one, of those arrested in June feature in the FIR.
The use of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) as an instrument to target political dissent. Stringent UAPA sections on unlawful activities, terrorist acts, recruiting for terrorist acts, being members of terrorist organisations, support for terrorist organisations and providing funds for terrorist organization were added to the FIR and tailored for the arrests made in June and August.
Significantly, the two accused, habitual offender Milind Ekbote and godman, Sambhaji Bhide in the Bhima Koregaon case who were named in the very first FIR have never been penalized under UAPA. The Maharashtra government has in fact refused to prosecute Bhide.
The August arrests highlight violation of all due procedures, in a mockery of the legal system. The Delhi HC has questioned the irregularities and pointed lapses on part of Maharashtra Police while hearing the Habeas Corpus petition against the transit remand ordered by the CJM Saket Court in the context of Gautam Navlakha’s arrest.
There is a generic narrative of urban Naxalites, support to or association with Naxalite organisations, planned assassinations etc being circulated to create a climate of terror where members of civil society will hesitate to protest and dissent.
The invoking of UAPA against rights activists, which ensure long term incarceration, denial of bail, bans is meant to muzzle voices of democratic dissent. The Supreme Court has rightly observed that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If it is not allowed the pressure cooker will burst.”
- Immediate and unconditional withdrawal of FIR No.4/2018 at Vishrambagh PS, Pune, Maharashtra and all held under it.
- Return of all items such as laptops, mobile phones etc. seized during the illegal arrest and search operations
- Appropriate action against Maharashtra Police for launching a vicious and malafide attack against activists.
- Withdrawal of all cases under UAPA and immediate end to such political acts of vendetta.
- The unconditional repeal of UAPA.
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Related Topics: Arun Ferreira, Arundhati Roy, Gautam Navlakha, Human Rights, Human Rights Abuse in India, Indian State, Maharashtra Police, Oxfam India, People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), Prashant Bhushan, Sudha Bharadwaj, UAPA, Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves